By Jeff Strack
Wausau police officials say their officers acted appropriately during Thursday's shooting, citing the department's policy on deadly force.
Michael John Hager, 49, of Wausau was shot in the arm and abdomen after he reportedly made threatening advances with a knife toward an officer who was on the ground.
Officer Thomas Hines fired his handgun after he perceived Hager's actions to be a threat on officer Mark Timken's life, Wausau deputy police chief Bryan Hilts said.
"We don't train to use a less than lethal weapon to defend their lives or another person's life," Hilts said.
Officers are trained to use deadly force when an assailant with an edged weapon is advancing toward them and within 21 feet of them, Hilts said. A person can cover 21 feet in the time it takes an officer to assess the situation and draw a firearm, he said.
Hilts credited Hines for firing only one shot and Timken for using a Taser instead of a firearm.
Five witnesses of the incident were interviewed and gave similar statements, police said. The Marathon County Sheriff's Department is overseeing the Wausau Police Department's investigation.
Timken and Hines are on administrative leave, per department policy. Both will be formally interviewed in the next few days after a "cooling down" time.
Both officers are well trained, Hilts said. Timken has worked for the department for 21 years and is a defense and arrest tactics instructor. Hines has worked there for 16 years and is a firearms instructor.
Once a month, Wausau police train to use their firearms at a shooting range. They also attend an annual in-service that focuses on firearm and defense tactics training.
Police have had past contact with Hager.
An officer suffered a broken wrist July 16, 1997, while responding to a noise complaint involving Hager, Hilts said. Hager knocked officer Joseph St. Amand to the ground and at one point sat on top of him, according to a criminal complaint. A second officer arrived and knocked Hager off St. Amand and used pepper spray on him.
Hager was found guilty, but not guilty by mental defect or disease, on a charge of battery to a law enforcement officer, according to court records. Hager has had other criminal charges resolved in the same manner.
Hager has been diagnosed with and treated for schizophrenia and has spent time at Winnebago Mental Health Institute.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
By Jeff Strack
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